Talking with Elliot Lavine, Programmer of Noir Film Festival “I Wake Up Dreaming”

1 Stranger3rdFloor

Opening Night Film: “Stranger on the 3rd Floor”

Look out, San Francisco! Nine days of double and triple features of gritty noir are heading your way. From May 16th to May 25th the Roxie Theatre (3117 16th Street) will be the destination for all of your cinematic underworld fixes. It’s the “I Wake Up Dreaming” film festival!

Be sure to check out the complete schedule here, but before you do, I have a special treat; Our gust Alien staff writer, whose goes by the name Ghfffhgungggbfggbf, (pretty much unpronounceable to humans, I know) recently sat down with the festival’s founder and acting programmer, Mr. Elliot Lavine for a quick Q&A. Here’s how the interview went down:

Hi Elliot, I’m an alien from another universe. Aside from the fact that this human form of art called moving pictures is completely new to me please tell me why I should attend your festival.

Elliot: Ah, what a perfect place to start: at the bottom. Yes, the emotional and spiritual bottom of the cinematic universe, poverty row you might say. The dark but inviting world of film noir provides a glowing allure that you aliens seem to go for. Misfits, transients, losers, wayward ones whose bearings are all balled up in a knot. Aliens are always welcome to that world, it will all seem so…fatally familiar. Yes, the perfect place to prepare yourself someday for the “sunny side of the universe.” 

How is your festival different from say the Noir City Film Festival that takes place at the Castro Theatre?

Elliot: Aside from being better you mean? No, seriously. I believe the main difference would be the venues. The Castro is a very grand place and that grandeur is reflected in the event itself, which is fine and fun. People dress up and manage to get seen. The Roxie projects a grittier vibe and the crowd for the I WAKE UP DREAMING fest is a reflection of that. As a result the programming skews more toward poverty row obscurities than the more “polished classics.”  Plus the Roxie has the luxury of being able to effectively utilize 16mm and digital, expanding our ability to “go rare.”

Where did the name I Wake Up Dreaming come from?

Elliot: It’s a take on the great noir film I Wake UpScreaming, which was also a terrific novel by a pulp writer named Steve Fisher, a contemporary of Cornell Woolrich. It’s a wildly expressionistic film noir, one of my favorites. I’ve always considered noir films to be extensions of the dream-state given the eerie tension provided by b&w photography and distorted images they provide  and illogical ideas they induce. For the longest time I’d been thinking about writing an essay on film noir called I Wake Up Dreaming then thought better to use it as the banner for my noir shows. It feels like the right thing to call it.

Do you really wake up dreaming, and if so, how do you know when to go to sleep?

Elliot: My so-called “waking state” is a little dream-like now that you mention it. And I’ve always likened the experience of walking into a dark movie theater to that of entering a live action dream that I can either choose to participate in or not. It’s hard to explain, but it allows me to maintain an interesting control of my imagination. I go to sleep when I’m tired of dreaming.

Aside from fulfilling your basic human needs (eating,sleeping and breathing), what do you do when you’re not programming for I Wake Up Dreaming?

Elliot: I generally do at least two other annual shows for the Roxie, a pre-code series and something I call Not Necessarily Noir, which showcases films that lie a little outside the noir universe but fit comfortably enough to warrant inclusion at some level. Plus I do a lot of teaching now. Film studies classes for Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program and for San Francisco State.

Like most humans, you are quite unusual. If I were to buy you a one-way ticket to my planet (FYI, tickets to my planet cost a gazillion dollars – so, obviously this is a hypothetical question. What, you think I’m going to spend that type of cash on you? I don’t care how cool your festival is, I earned that money. It’s mine.)… where was I? Oh yes, now I remember. If you came to my planet and could only bring two films with you to watch for the rest of your life what would they be?

Elliot: Jesus. Let’s see. Two films to watch over and over and over. Okay. YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT and GOODFELLAS.


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Categories: I Wake Up Dreaming, Interviews

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